Talent mobility and job creation

by 26 Mar 2012

Talent is the fuel that drives the engine of the global economy. Indeed, the physical mobility of talent within or across organisations, industries and globally – along with the professional movement of workers across occupations or skill sets – can help balance global human capital markets and stimulate economic growth in both developed and developing countries.

Understanding and harnessing talent mobility is now more critical than ever. For organisations in Australia – and in many of the world’s economies – it is vital to correct the mismatch between the skills people possess and those demanded by today’s businesses.

But there are serious imbalances in human capital markets. On one side, there are talent shortages witnessed in Australia’s growing sectors such as mining and resources, while on the other, there are high unemployment rates and employability challenges slowing down economies and threatening future growth across the globe.

To address this, Mercer and the World Economic Forum collaborated on a new report, “Talent Mobility Good Practices: Collaboration at the Core of Driving Economic Growth,” which reached out to a broad audience across diverse geographies, industries and stakeholders.

Questionnaires were sent to practitioners and experts in 45 countries, capturing more than 200 good practices in multiple dimensions of talent mobility, supplemented with in-depth interviews and research to gain clarity on the practices. In addition, 50 good practices were selected for publication in the report and five cases analysed in-depth for their impact on economic growth.

The four impediments

Among the key findings in the report, mobility efforts of most private organizations remain anchored to narrow concerns around expatriate assignments and leadership development. At the same time, public sector actions often reflect parochial interests rather than a spirit of collaboration in the service of a greater good.

But after examining hundreds of private and public sector practices worldwide, and following conversations with more than 100 business, government and academic entities, the Mercer/WEF research revealed that good practices in mobility directly address one or more of the following four key impediments:

  1. Widespread unemployability, due to the lack of basic employment skills, particularly among people in underprivileged communities.
  2. Critical skills gaps exist between what employees possess and what businesses need.
  3. Information gaps make it difficult for labour markets to match workers to jobs effectively.
  4. Public and private constraints on mobility impede the ability of markets to balance supply and demand by adjusting wages or the number of workers. These include visa restrictions or professional credential restrictions.

Our research found that a vanguard of organisations – both public and private – is effectively employing talent mobility practices to overcome the foundational issues described above. Their efforts underscore the exciting opportunities that mobility practices provide to organisations in all sectors and in all regions of the world.

Participation and skills

Organisations and governments are using a range of talent mobility practices to increase labour market participation. These initiatives include training and educating those lacking the basic skills necessary for employment to increase labour market participation, and subsidising employment directly to make it more cost effective for employers to hire workers.

Critical skills gaps are being addressed directly through practices aimed at retraining and upskilling employees inside organisations and industries and throughout the labour market.

For example, the Mercer/WEF report cited Yum! Brands as a good example of a global business offering continued learning and development to its employees. This global franchise of restaurants has incorporated some of its initiatives within Australia, providing internal training programmes which fall under the government’s TAFE standards, with participants awarded a TAFE Certificate and Diploma once completed.

Information and constraints

Private and public sector organisations are working to increase the amount of information available to individuals and employers. Some are mapping skills to multiple occupations to help individuals understand the breadth of jobs for which they may be qualified, or are even actively brokering matches between individuals and employers. Others conduct disciplined workforce planning to forecast future workforce requirements.

Collaborative practices can improve talent mobility by facilitating migration and integration of immigrants (one of the fastest ways to help close talent gaps for a country’s employers). This includes easing visa requirements or granting permission to work to international students who have completed their degrees in a host country; and implementing programs that ease the integration of immigrants into the host country, such as Australia.

Other needs include better systems for matching talent to open jobs; the right inducements to persuade employees to move; and moving jobs to people to balance the supply and demand for labour by locating in developing countries – not simply to open up new markets for goods and services, but also to tap an increasing skilled talent base.

As the Mercer/WEF report reveals, there are many good practices in play around the world. But a common theme that emerges is the need for collaboration among stakeholders on all sides of the employment equation. Indeed, organisations would do well to take a broader view of talent mobility, beyond traditional international assignments.

To download the full Mercer/WEF report, visit http://www.weforum.org/TalentMobility2012


About the author

Rob Bebbington is head of Mercer’s human capital business ANZ






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